The Islamic State group released a recording Sept. 28 of what it says is its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling on jihadists under pressure in Syria and Iraq to “resist” their enemies.
In his first alleged message in nearly a year, and following reports of his possible death, the elusive jihadist leader called on his supporters to target the “media centres” of countries fighting his group.
“The leaders of the Islamic State and its soldiers have realized that the path to… victory is to be patient and resist the infidels whatever their alliances,” the speaker said.
It was not clear when the message, released by the IS-affiliated Al-Furqan media group, was recorded.
In it, he lashed out at “infidel nations headed by America, Russia, and Iran” who, along with their allies, have inflicted losses on the jihadists during separate offensives against IS in Syria and Iraq.
“We will remain, we will resist and be patient… We will not give in,” he said, a day after Iraqi forces defeated IS fighters who had seized areas in a surprise offensive around Ramadi, west of Baghdad.
The apparent IS leader called on “soldiers of the caliphate” to pursue their “jihad,” or holy war, and attacks.
He urged his followers to “target the media centers of the infidels,” without providing further details.
A US intelligence community source said they were examining the audio message.
“We are aware of the audio tape purported to be of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are taking steps to examine it,” the source said in a statement.
“While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point.”
The Sept. 28 audio message is the first said to be of Baghdadi since November 2016, when he spoke in a defiant tone in urging his supporters to defend the city of Mosul against a massive operation by Iraqi forces.
That recording, also released by Al-Furqan, was a rare sign of life from Baghdadi.
In July, Moscow said it was struggling to confirm if Baghdadi was dead or alive, a month after reporting his possible demise in a May air strike near the one-time IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.
With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Iraq-born Baghdadi has successfully avoided an intense effort to seek him out for six years or more.
Rumours have abounded about Baghdadi’s health and movements, but his whereabouts have largely remained unclear.
All was quiet in the world of military memes until a Blue Star mom chimed in on Twitter about her yeoman son and the internet went freakin’ nuts. All political undertones aside, the most hilarious part of the meme was her bragging about her son being “#1 in boot camp and A school” and how he was awarded the coveted “USO Award” — pretty much every vet laughed because none of those are a thing.
The Navy vet took it all in stride. He and his brother verified themselves on Twitter and he set the record straight after his mom’s rant that turned into the latest and greatest copypasta. He’s down to Earth, loves his cat, and doesn’t seem like the kinda guy who’d brag about nonsense to his mother.
And, to be completely honest, it was kind of bound to happen. She had the best of intentions and military mommas embarrassing their baby warfighters is nothing new. Personally, I’m just glad my mom doesn’t know how to use her Twitter or else I’d be in the exact same situation.
For example, not every option has to do with use of force. In some cases, the US may just continue business as usual. In other cases, the military may withdraw completely from South Korea.
Below, you can see the same information that Congress has on the US’s military options in North Korea.
7. Maintain the status quo
Simply put, the US military could just continue regular activities and military drills while the State Department works on sanctions and diplomatic solutions to the problem.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because former President Barack Obama spent eight years doing it to limited effect.
On the plus side, this course of action presents a lower risk of elevating the tense situation into a full-blown crisis or warfare. Those against this policy of “strategic patience,” as the Obama administration dubbed it, point out that it has failed for years to stop North Korea from gaining a nuclear weapon or creating long-range missiles.
So far, Trump has stuck to the basic principals of strategic patience but supplemented it with more deployments of aircraft carriers and sometimes frightening threats to “totally destroy” the country with “fire and fury.”
6. Arm the region to the teeth and watch North Korea like a hawk
This option takes the status quo and jacks it up with the US’s scariest, most capable platforms coming to the region and closely monitoring North Korea to make it feel its nuclear program is unwise.
US stealth jets and bombers, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, guided-missile destroyers, and even tactical nuclear weapons could deploy to South Korea and Japan on a more permanent basis to step up the US presence in the area.
Meanwhile, an increased cyber and naval presence would seek to interdict any shipments to North Korea that could further Pyongyang’s weapons program.
Skeptics of this approach point out that North Korea hates US military deployments to the peninsula and could easily see such a move as further justification to continue its weapons program at any cost.
Furthermore, the US can’t simply place these assets in the region — it needs to credibly threaten using them. What happens if a North Korean ship opens fire on US Navy sailors trying to board and inspect its cargo?
5. Shoot down every medium- to long-range missile North Korea fires to restrict its testing
This approach disregards the long-stated US goal of denuclearizing North Korea and goes straight for a more realistic goal of freezing its nuclear-missile program.
Basically, North Korea has to keep testing its missiles to achieve a credible nuclear threat to the US, but to do so it has to test missiles that fly beyond its borders.
If the US and allies shot down North Korea’s test fires, it would deny Pyongyang the testing data it needs to have confidence in its fleet.
But this would require US ballistic-missile-defense assets, like its Navy destroyers, to constantly commit to the region, limiting resources available elsewhere.
Additionally, North Korea could still test shorter-range missiles that put US forces in the region at risk, and it’s unknown how Pyongyang would respond to having its missiles shot down.
This represents the first massively kinetic military response to North Korea.
With limited airstrikes and likely some Tomahawk missile launches from the US Navy, the US military would look to destroy in one quick pass every single known missile launchpad and ICBM manufacturing site.
But the US doesn’t know the full extent of North Korea’s missile-producing infrastructure, and could easily leave behind some secret or underground sites. And while most North Korean missiles are fired from fixed sites, North Korea has developed solid-fueled missiles that can launch from anywhere at virtually any time.
While this strike could conceivably remove the threat to the US from North Korean ICBMs, Pyongyang may very well see the attack as a larger-scale decapitation attack against the Kim regime.
Therefore, North Korea may unleash its full, massive artillery force against South Korea and the US forces there. It may fire nuclear missiles at Japan and South Korea. Experts assess that an all out war could cost 30,000 to 300,000 lives a day, with many of those coming from the civilian populations of the US’s allies in Asia.
3. Complete denuclearization by force
This option stages an even bigger military campaign targeting every known nuclear and missile site across North Korea. Instead of just airstrikes and cruise-missile launches, this type of attack may necessitate US Special Forces pouring over the border to neutralize key North Korean sites.
Because the US does not know the location of every North Korean nuclear and missile site, intense surveillance and guess-and-check work would follow the initial salvo.
This option only increases the already dire risk to the US’s allies.
Although the US military, Secretary of State Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis all say unequivocally that the US does not want or train for regime-change missions in North Korea, the president and the military have to do what’s best for the country at any cost.
If the US assesses that the Kim regime has bad intentions for the people of the US, regime change by military force could come into play.
But the US couldn’t simply kill Kim Jong Un and have the other 25 million North Koreans surrender. North Korea still technically exists under the “forever leader” of Kim Il Sung, who has been dead for decades. Rank-and-file North Koreans inculcated with propaganda would fight on, perhaps even more savagely, after Kim died.
Therefore the military would have to target “not only nuclear infrastructure but command and control facilities, key leaders, artillery and missile units, chemical and biological weapons facilities, airfields, ports, and other targets deemed critical to regime survival,” according to the report for Congress.
“This operation would be tantamount to pursuing full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula, and risk conflict elsewhere in the region,” the report concludes.
The conflict would have every opportunity to be drawn out and grow every bit as bloody as the Vietnam War or the first Korean conflict, and for that reason it remains unlikely.
1. Just walk away
This option represents the polar opposite of all other military possibilities by fundamentally reordering the US’s considerations on North Korea.
Essentially, some believe North Korea pursues nuclear weapons because the US has troops in South Korea and Japan. If the US withdrew those troops, Kim Jong Un wouldn’t feel as pressured and China or the international community could more easily sway him to denuclearize.
But this idea speculates heavily on Kim’s response to a weakened South Korea. Nothing guarantees that Kim would negotiate after gaining the upper hand on South Korea. Additionally, it argues that the US should end its legal troop deployments to Japan and South Korea in hopes that North Korea would end its illegal development of nuclear weapons, which sounds a lot like blackmail.
Additionally, North Korea has long stated one of its goals as reuniting the Korean Peninsula under the Kim dynasty, and if the US ceded to Pyongyang, it just may feel emboldened to do so.
None of the military options provided to Congress offers a perfect solution, and many offer catastrophic solutions.
In the end, North Korea’s rogue leadership and nuclear pursuits exist as political, not solely military options.
In that respect, while the US and allied militaries could certainly defeat North Korea and crush its nuclear program, it would cost potentially hundreds of thousands of lives and open the world to the possibility of nuclear warfare in the 21st century.
Simply put, military solutions don’t solve political problems, but in case of disaster, the US always has options ready.
In November 2018, the Air Force targeted its personnel at bases in Europe with spear-phishing attacks to test their awareness of online threats.
The tests were coordinated with Air Force leaders in Europe and employed tactics known to be used by adversaries targeting the US and its partners, the Air Force said in a release.
Spear-phishing differs from normal phishing attempts in that it targets specific accounts and attempts to mimic trusted sources.
Spear-phishing is a “persistent threat” to network integrity, Col. Anthony Thomas, head of Air Force Cyber Operations, said in the release.
“Even one user falling for a spear-phishing attempt creates an opening for our adversaries,” Thomas said. “Part of mission resiliency is ensuring our airmen have the proficiency to recognize and thwart adversary actions.”
Sailors on watch in the Fleet Operations Center at the headquarters of US Fleet Cyber Command/US 10th Fleet, Dec. 14, 2017.
(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Samuel Souvannason)
The technique has already been put into real-world use.
Just before Christmas in 2015, Russian hackers allegedly used spear-phishing emails and Microsoft Word documents embedded with malicious code to hit Ukraine with a cyberattack that caused power outages — the first publicly known attack to have such an effect.
In December 2018, the US Department of Justice charged two Chinese nationals with involvement in a decade-long, government-backed effort to hack and steal information from US tech firms and government agencies.
Their group relied on spear-phishing, using an email address that looked legitimate to send messages with documents laden with malicious code.
For their test in November 2018, Air Force cyber-operations officials sent emails from non-Department of Defense addresses to users on the Air Force network, including content in them that looked legitimate.
The emails told recipients to do several different things, according to the release.
One appeared to be sent by an Airman and Family Readiness Center, asking the addressee to update a spreadsheet by clicking a hyperlink. Another email said it was from a legal office and asked the recipient to add information to a hyperlinked document for a jury panel in a court-martial.
“If users followed the hyperlink, then downloaded and enabled macros in the documents, embedded code would be activated,” the release said. “This allowed the threat emulation team access to their computer.”
US Cyber Command.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
Results from the test — which was meant to improve the defenses of the network as a whole and did not gather information on individuals — showed most recipients were not fooled.
“We chose to conduct this threat emulation (test) to gain a deeper understanding of our collective cyber discipline and readiness,” said Maj. Ken Malloy, Air Force Cyber Operations’ primary planning coordinator for the test.
The lessons “will inform data-driven decisions for improving policy, streamlining processes and enhancing threat-based user training to achieve mission assurance and promote the delivery of decisive air power,” Malloy said.
While fending off spear-phishing attacks requires users to be cognizant of untrustworthy links and other suspicious content, other assessments have found US military networks themselves do not have adequate defenses.
A Defense Department Inspector General report released December 2018 found that the Army, the Navy, and the Missile Defense Agency “did not protect networks and systems that process, store, and transmit (missile defense) technical information from unauthorized access and use.”
That could allow attackers to go around US missile-defense capabilities, the report said.
In one case, officials had failed to patch flaws in their system after getting alerts about vulnerabilities — one of which was first found in 1990 and remained unresolved in April 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
According to a report from BreakingDefense.com, the situation’s gone from a bad deficit of 1,500 pilots this summer, to an ugly shortage of 2,000 pilots. To combat this shortage, the Air Force formed an Aircrew Crisis Task Force, upped flight pay to as much as $1,800 a month, and increased bonuses as high as $35,000 — all with no luck.
It should be noted that when increased flight pay was announced, the hike wasn’t to take effect until Oct. 1, so we could still see the impact of this change. Still, there are other factors that have been weighing heavily on airmen.
“Surge has become the new normal,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said. “Less than one percent of Americans serve in uniform and protect the rest of us, and they’re carrying a heavy burden. We are burning out our people because we are too small for what the nation is asking of us.” A lack of budget is also causing problems, Wilson said.
“The fiscal 2018 continuing resolution is actually delaying our efforts to increase the readiness of the force, and risk accumulates over time,” Wilson said Nov. 9, during the State of the Air Force address. “We are stretching the force to the limit, and we need to start turning the corner on readiness.”
To illustrate the situation, WATM noted in February that at the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons — a total that has declined to 55 today. The Air Force is not the only service affected by a lack of personnel and budget. In June of 2016, the Marine Corps had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to address an airframe shortage.
Since the US and Chinese militaries became neighbors in the small African country of Djibouti, they haven’t been getting along very well.
Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the director of intelligence at the US Africa Command, has accused the Chinese military of “irresponsible actions,” telling reporters recently that Chinese forces at a nearby base have been harassing US forces at the neighboring Camp Lemonnier base.
Berg, according to the Washington Times, said that the Chinese military has attempted to restrict access to international airspace near its base, targeted US pilots with ground lasers, and sent out drones to interfere with flight operations.
She also accused the Chinese military of “intrusion activity,” explaining that there have been “attempts to gain access to Camp Lemmonier.”
U.S. Marines at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
(DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Lonzo-Grei D. Thornton, U.S. Marine Corps)
The US base, which opened in 2001 and is home to roughly 4,000 US military and civilian personnel, is an important strategic facility that has served as a launch site for US counter-terrorism activities in east Africa.
China opened its base, its first overseas military installation, nearby in the summer of 2017. China insists that the purpose of what it calls an “overseas support facility” is the “better undertaking its international responsibilities and obligations and better protecting its lawful interests.”
The movement of Chinese forces into the area have made US military leaders uneasy. “We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, AFRICOM commander, told Breaking Defense just prior to the opening of China’s facility. “There are some very significant operational security concerns.”
The laser incidents Berg mentioned were first reported last year, when the Pentagon sent a formal complaint to Beijing after two C-130 pilots suffered injuries.
A C-130 Hercules cargo plane.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued that the latest allegations against it do “not align with the facts,” adding that “China has always abided by international laws and laws of the host countries and is committed to maintaining regional safety and stability.”
Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, a military expert at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times, a state-affiliated Chinese publication, that the US has been sending low-flying aircraft to conduct spying operations near the Chinese facility.
The Global Times said that US accusations were “just the same old tune struck up again by the US to defame China.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Last year the news was full of headlines about veterans and their service dogs being turned away from public places such as restaurants, airports, and, in the case of an Ohio substitute teacher, work. It’s a complicated problem; businesses don’t want to turn people away, but without knowing the difference between a service dog and a pet, their hands are tied when other customers complain.
Why would someone complain about a service dog? Unfortunately, there’s been a good deal of abuse of national service dog laws lately. Anyone can buy a red or yellow vest online, claim their pet is a support animal, and take it places pets aren’t typically allowed. If the animal isn’t well behaved, it gives actual service dogs a bad rep. Also, keep in mind some people are allergic to dogs or afraid of them, and some people just don’t like dogs.
For these folks, seeing a dog in a restaurant or sitting next to them (or their children) in an airport can provoke a strong reaction that leads to confrontation. It’s frustrating and embarrassing for the veteran, confusing for business owners, and upsetting for the community.
Veterans who have a service dog say their companion has allowed them to return to “normal” life. Service dogs can help veterans cope with depression, anxiety, and PTSD by recognizing signs of panic attacks, awakening handlers from nightmares, and signaling them to engage in coping mechanisms that break cycles of anger and paranoia. Service dogs can even be taught to block strangers from approaching their handlers with a passive maneuver. Of course, service dogs can also help disabled veterans who have mobility issues.
This is one problem that is potentially easy to solve. Veterans need their service dogs, and businesses and the community at large want to support veterans in whatever way they can. Service dogs are unobtrusive in public; they do not approach people who aren’t their handlers and, trained correctly, they will quietly do their jobs without causing any disruption in public settings.
Most people are surprised to learn there are national laws regarding where service dogs can and can’t go, but no national standard for what qualifies as a service dog. Ending the confusion about what is a service dog and what is a pet is as simple as creating one national standard.
A variety of “service dog” bills have been presented in the House and Senate, but The American Humane and the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO) are the first to create a national credentialing standard for service dogs. This measure would allow veterans to keep their service dogs with them in public places without fear of confrontation. This week they are asking everyone to support this standard by signing a Change.org petition that will go to the House and Senate Committees for Veterans’ Affairs.
If you’d like to help veterans keep their service dogs with them without fear of confrontation, sign the petition, and let lawmakers know you support this common sense solution. The petition can be signed and shared right here.
Air Force Space Command concluded its fourth iteration of the Department of Defense’s premier space exercise December 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Space Flag 19-1 took place over the course of two weeks, testing airmen from the 50th Space Wing and the 460th SW. SF 19-1 also included airmen from the 27th and 26th Space Aggressors squadrons, which are tenant units of Air Combat Command located at Schriever Air Force Base, Louisiana.
The goal of the exercise is to enable forces to achieve and maintain space superiority in a contested, degraded, and operationally limited environment.
“The intent of Space Flag is to allow tactical operators the ability to learn how to fight and defend their systems as an enterprise with other tactical operators in an arena we currently do not have,” said Col. Devin Pepper, 21st Operations Group commander and SF 19-1 space boss.
To prepare airmen for any conflict, space operators are thrown a dynamic range of scenarios.
“We train the way we fight,” said Capt. Josh Thogode, 27th SAS flight commander and SF 19-1 space aggressor. “My goal as an aggressor is to make blue (United States) lose in any scenario. If they lose during the exercise, then we can win when it matters. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team. The aggressors can add value to our techniques, tactics and procedures moving forward – that’s what we bring to the fight.”
The training space operators see is diverse and comes from several perspectives. In addition to aggressors testing space operators, senior space operators, referred to as tactical mentors, also provide training. The mentors observe and counsel airmen throughout the exercise and look for opportunities to give feedback to the space operators on how to improve their response to the threat.
“Space Flag really brings out the creativity in our space operations crew force,” said Maj. Justin Roberts, 50th SW weapons officer and SF 19-1 tactical mentor. “This exercise is an excellent opportunity for our space operators to think and test out new ideas. I, alongside other mentors, am there to gauge and guide their ideas. I have now been a tactical mentor for SF three times and I have seen a huge increase in the quality and capabilities of the operators coming to the exercise.”
Before Space Flag, facing an adversary in a space training environment was a rare thing.
“Space had always been benign,” Pepper said. “Back in our lieutenant days, we didn’t expect to have to defend our assets on orbit. We weren’t actively training against those threats. The war-fight is shifting though, so we have to be ready to encounter anything against our land-based and terrestrial systems. Having living, thinking aggressors acting as adversaries in the training environment prepares us for that day, if it ever comes.”
During calendar year 2017 and 2018, Space Flag occurred twice a year. During fiscal year 2019, Space Flag will increase to three times a year.
“Our adversaries have made tremendous strides in contesting us in the space domain,” said Pepper. “We have transitioned our culture and our way of thinking from just providing a service to the warfighter to actually being a space warfighter. We are a part of the fight, and the fight is on today.”
Russia’s lower parliament house has scheduled the first reading of a bill on retaliatory sanctions against the United States for May 15, 2018, meaning the first of three State Duma votes on the legislation could be held that day.
Senior lawmakers met on April 16, 2018, to discuss plans to hit back against Washington, which 10 days earlier imposed asset freezes and financial restrictions on tycoons, security officials, politicians, and companies seen to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
The U.S. treasury secretary said the sanctions were a response to Russia’s “malign activity around the globe,” alluding among other things to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain and Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
The Russian bill on countering “unfriendly actions by the United States and other foreign states,” introduced on April 13, 2018, would authorize Putin’s government to ban or restrict the import of a raft of U.S. goods and services.
Among goods that could be banned or subjected to restrictions are medicines, alcohol, tobacco, agricultural and industrial products, technological equipment and computer software — though individual Russians would be allowed to bring many of the items into the country for personal use. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Auditing, legal, and consulting services by U.S. companies could also be subject to bans or restrictions, and curbs could be imposed on U.S. citizens working in Russia. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Duma deputy speaker Aleksandr Zhukov said on April 16, 2018, that a group of lawmakers and experts will discuss the bill on May 3, 2018.
Russia has sharply criticized the new U.S. sanctions. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, contended on April 16, 2018, that they are “nothing more than an international asset grab” and an effort to give U.S. companies a competitive edge over Russian firms — allegations that U.S. officials say are untrue.
As I have written elsewhere, the Army’s leadership has taken a number of bold steps to reform its sclerotic acquisition system. Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff General Mark Milley have set ambitious goals for a revamped acquisition system. Secretary Esper has spoken of reducing the time it takes to formulate requirements from an average of five years to just one. General Milley wants new capabilities ten times more lethal than those they replace. Getting there, he suggested in a recent speech, is as much a matter of attitude and culture as it is about technology:
I’m not interested in a linear progression into the future. That will end up in defeat on a future battlefield. If we think that if we just draw a straight line into the future and simply make incremental improvements to current systems, then we’re blowing smoke up our collective fourth point of contact…
There is no question that the Army’s leadership is all-in on acquisition reform. This does not mean that success is assured. It is natural for the current system to resist change, marshaling all the weapons of law, regulation, custom, and habit to retard or even negate progress towards the goals of a faster and more effective way of designing and procuring new capabilities. In a recent RollCall article, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy recommends that elements within the current acquisition system will present the hardest challenge as they attempt to preserve their “bureaucratic rice bowls.”
As aggressive as the Army acquisition reform program has been, they could be bolder still. Here are three additional initiatives that should be pursued.
3. Restructure the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for acquisition technology and logistics (ASA/ALT)
One of the major problems the current reforms is intended to address is the stovepipes that exist between requirements formulation and capabilities development and procurement. The proposed solutions, including the creation of Futures Command, do not go far enough. Currently, Army Material Command (AMC), the organization that oversees the actual development and production of new capabilities, reports to the Chief of Staff. However, by law, AMC’s Program Executive Offices (PEOs), which manage specific programs also report to the Secretary of the Army through the ASA/ALT.
This creates an inherent conflict of interest for the PEOs who are responsible both for program execution and oversight. There will be a natural tendency for PEOs to exploit this organizational contradiction to pursue their own interests and maximize their freedom of action. But this is more than just a bureaucratic problem. There are reports that some PEOs have been told by Army lawyers that they cannot participate in the work of the newly-created Cross Functional Teams. The current system also runs counter to Congress’ efforts to allow the Service Chiefs greater authority over the acquisition process.
Army leadership needs to change this system. The logic of the current reform campaign dictates that the entire acquisition process be placed under the Army Chief of Staff. The role of the Assistant Secretary of the Army should be limited to oversight, assessment, and review of the work done by AMC and the PEOs. Clearly, this will require action on the part of Congress to rewrite the current law. But the Army needs to make a case for restructuring ASA/ALT.
2. Seek Relief from the onerous requirements of the Congressional appropriations process
The current defense budget appropriations process requires the Services to produce detailed descriptions, called exhibits, of the programs they are pursuing, including the specific quantities and types of equipment to be procured as well as the funds required. A lack of specificity in these documents often results in the appropriations committees refusing to fund a request.
The problem is that the Services’ budgets must go through an elaborate review and vetting process at multiple levels before a defense budget is actually submitted to Congress. Consequently, they may be up to two years out of date. But if changes are required, a reprogramming request must be submitted, which is a laborious process in itself.
This has been a particular problem of late in the procurement of munitions since the Services, particularly the Air Force and Army, did not anticipate two years ago how many weapons would be expended in the fight against ISIS. It is already a serious problem in areas such as cyber and communications systems where the technology cycle time is measured in months, not years. But if the Army can accelerate the acquisition system, it will become a problem in multiple areas.
The Army, really all the Services, need to work with the appropriations committees to revamp the budget document process. There needs to be a way of promoting flexibility for the PEOs while allowing for Congressional oversight. This could involve building off-ramps or alternative pathways into the reports that can be executed without triggering the need for a reprogramming request.
1. Make aggressive use of available rapid acquisition authorities
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress gave the Department of Defense the authority to waive virtually all procurement regulations in order to rapidly acquire critically needed capabilities. Congress also expanded the power of the Services to employ other transactional authorities to speed up the acquisition process. The current Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Ellen Lord, has proposed using these new authorities to reduce contracting times by fifty percent.
To date, the Army has not taken advantage of these new authorities. The Army needs to walk through the open door provided by Congress and senior leaders of the Department of Defense. The Secretary and Chief of Staff need to identify a set of candidate capabilities that could be acquired using the new authorities. This has both a practical and symbolic value. There are a number of capability gaps that would benefit from the introduction of an interim solution.
More importantly, the use of rapid acquisition authorities is a demonstration of how serious Army leaders are about changing the risk-averse, “all the time in the world” acquisition culture. The Army has shown it can terminate programs that are failing or no longer meet warfighters’ needs. It must show that it is just as capable of making rapid decisions when it comes to procuring new capabilities.
Implementing organizational change is hard; altering an institution’s culture is even more difficult. The key to success is to go big and fast. The Army needs an even bolder program for reforming its acquisition system.
As tensions rise to historic heights on the Korean Peninsula, both the U.S. and China have begun taking unprecedented steps to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Across North Korea’s border in China’s Jilin province, state-run media ran a full-page instructional package on how to survive a nuclear blast. The page doesn’t mention North Korea, but it doesn’t need to.
But China’s preparations don’t just indicate a defensive, wait-and-see approach. China’s air force engaged in exercises along “routes and areas it has never flown before” earlier this month, with surveillance aircraft over the Yellow and East seas near the Korean Peninsula, according to the South China Morning Post.
“The timing of this high-profile announcement by the PLA is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further,” Li Jie, a military expert based in Beijing, told the Post, using the abbreviation for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
In addition to flexing its military muscle against the U.S., China has been increasingly assertive in the South China Sea. It has also dispatched military spy planes to encircle Taiwan and provide up-to-date info, which the Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong told the Post was “very unusual.”
U.S. preparing to denuclearize North Korea, possibly by force
The U.S. appears resolutely determined to put the pressure on North Korea.
At a speech at the Atlantic Council last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was preparing plans to seize loose nuclear weapons, should North Korea somehow collapse or become unstable.
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, also flatly rejected the clearest path to peace by saying the U.S. would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. He recommitted the U.S. to using force if necessary.
“We’re not committed to a peaceful resolution — we’re committed to a resolution,” McMaster told the BBC. “We have to be prepared, if necessary, to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.”
The Trump administration’s approach to North Korea explicitly calls for every means of pressure to bear down on the country. Threats of war, military deployments, increased drills, stealthier and more lethal weapons systems, sanctions, and even a possible shipping blockade could become a daily fact of life for Pyongyang under Trump.
But North Korea is not the only one to have noticed the U.S.’s new approach. China has closely watched the U.S. ratchet up tensions along its border, and its recent military movements reflect a country that is considering all-out war a possibility.
Ross Perot, the self-made billionaire, philanthropist and third-party presidential candidate, died July 9, 2019, at his home in Texas. He was 89.
Henry Ross Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, on June 27, 1930. His story is the epitome of hard work, and one that has rarely been equaled: He rose from Depression-era poverty to become one of the richest and most beloved men in America.
Read the tributes, the stories, interviews, memoirs, and what pops up most, the one constant is that Perot never stopped working.
As a boy, he delivered newspapers. He joined the Boy Scouts at 12, then made Eagle Scout in just 13 months. In his US Naval Academy yearbook, a classmate wrote: “As president of the Class of ’53 he listened to all gripes, then went ahead and did something about them.” At 25, he personally “dug his father’s grave with a shovel and filled it as a final tribute to him.” At 27, after leaving the Navy, he went to work at IBM where he soon became a top salesman. One year, he met the annual sales quota by the second week of January. At 32, he’d left IBM and formed his own company, Electronic Data Systems. By 38, when he took the company public, he was suddenly worth 0 million. In the 80s, Perot sold the company for billions, then started another company, Perot Systems Corp., that later sold for billions more.
Ross Perot, 1986.
“Every day he came to work trying to figure out how he could help somebody,” said Ross Perot Jr., in an interview.
And that’s another thing that pops up, another constant: Perot’s connection to people, to his employees, to POWs in North Vietnam and their families, to Gulf War Veterans suffering from a mysterious illness, and to the millions of Americans he reached in self-paid 30-minute TV spots in the 90s when he ran for president.
“Ross Perot epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American creed,” said Former President George W. Bush, in a statement. “He gave selflessly of his time and resources to help others in our community, across our country, and around the world. He loved the U.S. military and supported our service members and veterans. Most importantly, he loved his dear wife, children, and grandchildren.”
That’s the last thing, the most important thing — his family.
“I want people to know about Dad’s twinkle in his eyes,” said daughter Nancy Perot. “He always gave us the biggest hugs. We never doubted that we were the most important things in his life.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner was laid to rest aboard the sunken remains of the USS Arizona with the help of two Army divers in diving gear from the period.
Army 7th Dive Detachment Divers SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez wore lead boots and a drysuit — weighing a total of 220 pounds — and the last two Mark 5 vintage hard hats certified for operational use on the dive.
Bruner, who died on Sept. 10, 2019, at 98 years old, was interred on the wreck of the Arizona on December 7, the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
(Library of Congress)
After Bruner’s death, only three Arizona crew members are still alive today.
According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Bruner survived the attack on the Arizona by going hand over hand across a rope stretched 70 feet above the harbor. Forty-four other survivors have had their remains interred on the ship, alongside their more than 900 shipmates who went down with the ship during the attack.
Bruner will be the last survivor to be interred on the wreckage, the Star-Advertiser reports; he was the second-to-last man to escape the flaming ship, according to CNN.
Attendees salute Bruner’s ashes.
(Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Holly L. Herline/US Navy)
SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez wore vintage diving suits to place Bruner’s ashes in the well of barbette number four.
Bruner suffered burns on 80% of his body, but went back into service after he healed. He served aboard the USS Coghlan in eight other battles against Japan’s forces, CNN reports.
US Army 7th Dive Detachment Divers SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez interred the remains of Pearl Harbor Survivor Lauren Bruner amongst the remains of his fellow crewman on board the sunken USS Arizona.
(Screengrab/Sgt. Laura Martin/US Army/DVIDS)
The diving suits are similar to what salvage divers would have worn on salvage missions into Pearl Harbor.
The Mark 5 helmet and dive suit was used from 1916 until the 1980s, according to the US Naval Undersea Museum.
“In retrospect, it’s very historical and super-cool, but it’s kind of uncomfortable,” Melendez told the Star-Advertiser. “It’s super heavy and it’s kind of amazing to think that it took so long to kind of upgrade it.”
US Army 7th Dive Detachment Divers SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez interred the remains of Pearl Harbor Survivor Lauren Bruner aboard the USS Arizona.
(Screengrab/Sgt. Laura Martin/US Army/DVIDS)
Underwater, Melendez and Bible walked about 200 feet along the wreckage of the Arizona before they brought Bruner’s remains to their final resting place.
While the Navy has performed this kind of ceremony before for other Pearl Harbor survivors, the divers have always worn modern diving kits.
“I think it was a really fitting tribute and I think it’s an interesting way to kind of close out the last of the interments — to have it done not only with the ceremony that we normally do, but to have historic hardhats like it would have been during the salvage in World War II,” Brett Seymour, the deputy chief of the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center, told the Star-Advertiser.
(Screengrab/Sgt. Laura Martin/US Army/ DVIDS)
“We’ve never done an interment with hardhats for sure,” Seymour told the Star-Advertiser.
“It was historical. I was left speechless, honestly,” Melendez told the Star-Advertiser. “It was a very in-the-moment experience. Just kind of taking it all in and realizing what we were doing and the history that’s being made and remembering Lauren Bruner and everything that he had done.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.